Birds want a warm, safe place to make their nests. They want to be able to protect their young from the elements, predators, and us. When I was twelve and we had just moved into the newly built house, we started noticing the outdoor lights fill up with twigs, leaves, and feathers. Birds had nested inside the hanging light near the front door and the two smaller lights along the front wall. It dismayed my mother because they looked like a pain to clean. We’d have to dismantle the iron and glass panes individually.
In reality the nests didn’t really bother us. They didn’t stop lights from working. They were dirty but also sort of charming. We had a bird sanctuary in our front entrance! They only became a problem when birds started getting trapped inside.
My father and I watched a bird inside the light crash up against the glass pane. He kept trying again and again, as if he had lost his way to a trap door that he was sure was there. He had come in through the one opening at the bottom and in a panic had forgotten the way out. I wondered if this was not the same bird who had built the nest. That one made repeated trips in and out and would have known. This bird had gotten here by accident.
He flew into the glass for hours. It was maddening, watching this small creature get knocked down repeatedly. It made all three of us nervous. My mother made a ball out of rice and meat and placed it at the edge of the opening. It got his attention for a few seconds and then he went back to flying into the glass. He had no other focus. My father attempted to squeeze him out by sticking the end of a broomstick into the opening, hoping to scare him. That didn’t work either. We gave up but just stared at the bird stuck in a trap. We all hoped for the best and continued check on him throughout the day.
The next morning we found his stiff body on the ground. It had slid through the opening. It seemed horrible that once he stopped trying he was able to find his way out. A safe place had become a deathtrap. I was stunned and stared at his body for a few minutes. My mother quickly scurried me inside and told me to look away while she collected his body into a shoebox.
The same thing ended up happening to a few more birds that year. I’m relieved that I haven’t seen any birds inside the lights for years. It's time to clean out their nests and put mesh wiring over the opening.